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Stories du Moment
Americans in Paris, Seine-swims, and Tik Tok tourist takedowns
A couple of years ago, I wrote a piece for Mastermind magazine about the evolution of the American in Paris, as much a category of person as it is a mindset. (You can read it here). It wasn’t meant for me to weave in my personal narrative but writing it did crystallize the realization that I, too, am part of this ongoing story. Wild, huh!
That story motivated one CNN journalist to speak to a handful of Americans living, working, struggling/thriving in Paris and write this story, which published yesterday. This isn’t capital N news but it’s personal news so voilà, if you’d like to read it go forth!
WOULD YOU SWIM IN THE SEINE?
"Swimming in the Seine, a dream come true for Parisians", announced Anne Hidalgo proudly on Twitter. On July 9, Paris City Hall unveiled the three future swimming sites that will open to the public in 2025 (since the €1.4bn clean-up effort is well underway for next year’s Olympics): opposite the central Île Saint-Louis in the centre, by the Quai de Grenelle in the 15th arrondissement to the west, and at Bercy in the eastern 12th arrondissement. The measure is part of a plan she announced in June to combat extreme heat— Paris could be facing deadly summer temperatures of 50 degrees by 2050.
Swimming in the river has been banned for sanitary reasons since 1923. Jacques Chirac, the capital's former mayor before he was President, promised to clean up the river as early as 1988. He didn’t succeed but 35 years later, after many challenges, it looks likely.
For more, read on!
CRITICS OF PARIS: BEWARE
I am actively trying to stay off Tik Tok (and encourage others to do the same) but my friend shared this brilliant rebuttal to a tourist’s deeply problematic criticisms of Paris (which he had also posted to Tik Tok. Spoiler: it went viral) and, well, I had to watch. I’m glad I did! I can’t help but applaud his use of the platform to educate as well as his perfectly delivered course correction. It’s many of those tired clichés and colonial-era mindsets that inspired me to write both of my books.
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THE U.S. REJOINS UNESCO ( United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization)
Why is it important and what are the five takeaways from this return to the organization? Chris Klein, a senior fellow at the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy and a former principal deputy assistant secretary in the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Organization Affairs, explains.
ARE FRENCH PEOPLE LAZY?
Bah, non! This short BBC video report from pal Daphnée Denis addresses the enduring question and puts the myth to rest once and for all.
PIECING NOTRE DAME BACK TOGETHER AGAIN
The long road to repairing the Notre Dame cathedral (using medieval techniques, apparently), reached a new milestone as the trusses necessary for shoring up part of the structure’s charpente were lifted from a barge on the Seine and up to the roof where they were be fitted together over the next two months. (The Guardian)
PREPARING FOR A 50°C FUTURE
As you may have read, watched or heard friends panic about, many parts of the world, from Phoenix to Sicile and Sanbao have reached unhealthy, unbreathable, unbelievable record-breaking temperatures. While Paris has yet to clock 40+° temperatures this summer, it has happened many times and will remain part of our future. And while it isn’t only the heat— drought and flooding are equally menacing threats— it’s those life-altering temperatures that have journalists, climate activists, and everyday citizens wondering what needs to happen to adapt our great capital for a truly terrifying reality.
The other night, I followed the discussions around this very topic on an episode of C Dans l’Air, a smart round-table show. One of the guests, environmental journalist Frédéric Denhez, pointed out two things. One, that Hidalgo’s pipe-dream to turn Paris into an urban forest wouldn’t bring about any significant change for something like twenty years (and therefore cannot be considered a viable, urgent response to the issue at hand). It’s worth remembering that it’s easy to plant trees but much harder to keep them alive (how many of the trees planted in splashy environmental projects spearheaded by big corporations remain today? We hear about the number planted, rarely what’s left years later). And which trees?
Then there’s the glaring problem of the city’s iconic zinc rooftops— a feature of 80% of buildings. The benefits of the roofs: they’re an affordable, corrosion-resistant and virtually inflammable innovation of the 19th century. The downside: they are deadly in the 21st century—heating up to 194 degrees F on a hot day. And because top‑floor garrets were not insulated, that heat is transferred directly into the rooms below.
Denhez said that painting them over in some kind of magic white coating wouldn’t work as wear and chipping could leave us with toxic materials in our water sources. On top of it, citizens are attached to historic symbols—propose messing with the zinc roofs and it elicits a knee-jerk reaction of mais, non! He wagers the best case scenario would be to condemn the top chambre de bonne floors beneath those roofs and properly insulate them in order to conserve/cool each of the lower floors. That wouldn’t come cheap.
"Paris at 50°C" (122°F) is the Paris city council’s information and assessment project geared toward preparing for the worst. May they assess quickly…
For more on this, I suggest reading this Yale Environment 360 piece by climate author Jeff Goodell.
LISTEN: ON BECOMING EPISODE WITH ME & HOST ZEVA BELLEL
If you listen to my podcast, the name Zeva Bellel will be somewhat familiar (episode 71!). Now, the French-American career and leadership coach has launched a podcast of her own and invited me into the guest seat. I have to say, I’ve been interviewed a ton over the years but rarely by skilled interviewers who have done their homework and seek to create deep, meaningful dialogue. This conversation was different and got me to tap into parts of myself and my experiences here that I’ve rarely discussed publicly. It was recorded before my essay in The Cut was published but a lot of what we speak about— sensitivity, anxiety, what living in France has offered me — relates to it closely. I hope you enjoy it! Listen here.